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Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Although chemotherapy kills or disables cancer cells, it may harm some normal cells in the body and cause side effects.

Most side effects occur during treatment and begin to go away shortly after treatment ends. Others can last for months or even years.

How common and how severe the side effects are depend on the chemotherapy drugs used.

Before you begin chemotherapy, talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and how to manage them. Also ask whether you need to have someone drive you home after each visit.

Learn about short-term side effects of chemotherapy.

Learn about long-term side effects of chemotherapy.

Easing worries about chemotherapy

It’s normal to worry about possible side effects of chemotherapy.

Talk with your health care provider about your concerns. Your provider may be able to suggest a hospital social worker, patient navigator, psychologist or support group to help ease anxiety related to chemotherapy (or having breast cancer).

Susan G. Komen®‘s Patient Navigator Program

Komen Patient Navigators can help guide you through the health care system. They can help to remove barriers to high-quality breast care. For example, they can help you with insurance, local resources, communication with health care providers and more.

Call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email helpline@komen.org to learn more about our Patient Navigator program, including eligibility.

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Learn more about support groups.

Managing side effects

Once you begin chemotherapy, let your oncologist or nurse know how the sessions are making you feel. They may be able to treat or prevent many of the side effects. Or, they may change your treatment plan to try to reduce them.

Learn more about managing side effects of chemotherapy and other breast cancer treatments.

Susan G. Komen® educational resources

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or feel too overwhelmed to know where to begin to gather information, Komen has a Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Chemotherapy and Side Effects resource that might help.

You can download and print it to bring with you to your next doctor’s appointment or you can save it on your computer, tablet or phone using an app such as Adobe. Plenty of space and a notes section is provided to write or type the answers to the questions.

There are other Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources on many different breast cancer topics you may wish to download.

Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

Updated 07/01/23